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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, March 23, 1924, Image 82

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The Box Office Girl
BY ARNOLD BENNETT
What Caused Elaine Edar to Choose Her Husband?
THE ROTUNDA ROYAL is the
largest music hall In London
and the most successful music
hall in London, and it bums
»or« electricity than any other place
of amusement in London. Its upper
parta are glitterlngly ouffined in
green and yehow electricity; its high
tower can be glimpsed from all man
ner of streets, and the rich glow of
the whole affair illuminates a cloudy
•"'ky the whole of central London
to see.
Though entirely respectable, it has
an altar of its own in the hearts of
the young and the old bloods of pro
vincial cities who come to town
strictly on business. It is the mecca
of suburban inhabitants with a dull
afternoon In front of them and 10
shillings in their pockets to squan
der. To have his or her name printed
-n fire on the facade of the Rotunda
is the ambition of every music hall
artist in the world, and of many an<-
other artist besides. In brief, the
Rotunda is a very important, grandi
ose and impressive organism—an or
ganism which emphatically functions.
And it is a household word. Even
judges of the high court have heard
of the Rotunda. No daily paper in
London ever appears without men
tion of it somewhere.
Now. daily and nightly, behind a
counter on your left as you enter by
the main entrance into the grand
loyer, stood until lately a girl named
Elaine Edar. She was a blonde, with
bright hair, an attractive, pretty and
benevolent face and a good figure,
because these attributes were essen
tial to her position. Her simple,
smart dress was of black, but it had
touches of fantasy and of color, be- 1
cause Mr. AValter King (managing
director, risen from call boy. as be
openly stated about ten times every
day) had said that be did not care
for his girls to look like hotel clerks.
Elaine's face and hair were known
to tens of thousands of people. Often
in the street such people would start
at the sight of her and murmur
something to a companion, and Elaine
knew that they were saying;
“That’s the box-oflice girl at the
Rotunda.’’
So that she had a certain impor
tance on earth, and assuredly at the
Rotunda For she gathered in money, ]
and to Mr. Walter King the Rotunda
was in the end nothing but a machine j
for gathering in more money than it
paid out.
Not that Elaine was the sole in
strument for gathering in money.
Far from it: Above her counter were
displayed the words; “Box office for
this performance only. Boxes. Royal i
fauteuils. Royal stalls. Stalls. Grand i
balcony.” All advance boohing' was j
done in a special office up the street, I
nnd each of the unreserved parts of ]
the house had its own entrance, with
turnstile and money taker. Still,
Elaine took a goodish bit of money
twice a day, and she was easily the
most prominent of all the human
machines that received silver coins
and notes in exchange for bits of col
ored paper or base-metal disks.
Twelve performances a week, and
Elaine bad to be on duty ten minutes
before the doors opened re
main on duty until one hour before
the end of each performance. Then
she had to check her money and
prove to the cashiers department
that the total was correct. An anx
ious job, especially during the “rush"
quarter of an hour, when she had to
read with the glance of an eagle the |
numbers on the ‘‘sheet’’ of the per- j
fofmance, treat every patron as a
benefactor, return good for evil, give ]
change like a flash of lightning, dc- <
tect spurious coins in the tenth of a I
second and render sweet smiles to i
louts, curmudgeons and cats.
Happily, she was by nature pro- i
soundly and generally benevolent. I
and in this respect indeed a wonder |
to her assistant, who did the tele- i
phoning and lent a general hand. It i
was her benevolent air that had rec- |
ommended her to Mr. Walter King, i
who had sacked her predecessor for i
bring hoity-toity to patrons when- j
ever business was abnormally good, i
She was devoted to the theater. No
body thought of her apart from the
theater, and in fact she had little !
private life. Mr. Waller King was
himself passionately devoted to the
theater, and he expected all the staff
to be passionately devoted to the the
ater; but whereas bis own devotion
brought in a large share of the prof
its, Elaine’s devotion brought in only
a small fixed salary, which Mr. King
did not dream of passionately in
creasing when business grew fabu
lous. Elaine saw nothing odd in this
arrangement.
•J* *»•
TT was a quarter to 10. The day’s
"*• work was nearly over. Elaine’s
assistant had gone. The entrance?
hall and foyer blazed deserted with
their superlavish electricity. When
an idle program girl swung Open a
door at the end of a vast corridor
and peeped forth, Elaine could faintly
catch the sound- of clapping. She
rarely got more 9f a performance
than these brief distant rumors of
applause. For her the Rotunda was
not an auditorium, but a foyer with
box office, and the artists were mere
names on bills. She estimated the
quality of the applause, and glanced
at the clock and the time table to
know who was being applauded, for
she had to bo in a position to inform
patrons what artist was "on” at any
given moment. Then she proceeded
with the secret counting of notes on
a shelf beneath the counter.
In view of the absence of a grille
to protect the counter and of the
prevalence of gangs of robbers in
London, her situation with all that
money for Mr. Walter King might
seem perilous. But it was not so in
reality. Elaine and her treasure were
well guarded by formidable giants
and astute dwarfs in the shape of
gorgeous doormen and pages. Though
be disapproved of grilles, Mr. Walter
King took no chances with the night’s
receipts.
Then a dark and elegant young
man in full evening panoply appeared
from the street. The eraardlans sa
luted him. He saluted Elaine. This
unidentified and mysterious gentle
man came nearly every night toward
10 o’clock. Elaine guessed that he
came to witness the performance of
the Russian dancer, the Incompara
ble, Illustrious Feodora.
“Did you keep the fauteull for me,
iniw Edar?” He had picked up her
name from somewhere, It seemed.
She nodded, kindly smiling. She
liked the regular visitant, not in the
least because he was regular, but
because ho was dark, elegant, slim
and had a sad, wistfrofemilc. Yes, she
had kept the him, despite
the fact that ifhad not come to
claim it she would have had to pay
for it out, of her own 4>ockct. He
usually telephoned just before the
rush, and Elaine had accepted the
risk of his not coming quite a dozen
times.
Occasionally, as tonight, ho would
try to get a box, and if successful
would pay for both the box and the
stall. And he would show amazing
indecisions. Tonight she had no box
to sell; the sole empty seat in the
house was the one she had retained
for him; and yet, In his rich, low
voice, he would keep talking about a
box, and also she had to repeat to
him several times precisely where the
stall was in regard to the stage.
At length he paid, raised his hat
again and went off toward the audi
torium, followed by her benedictory,
sympathetic smile. The head door
man. his pocket gaping for the har
vest of sixpences which he would
shortly garner for putting patrons
into cars and taxis, winked at her
rather broadly, as if to indicate that
the dark gentleman was queer in the
head. But Elaine gently deprecated
the wink, seeing in the dark gentle
man a victim of hopeless love for a
Russian dancer.
:).• * s’: s,;
IJLAINE had taken out the self
locking steel cash drawer from
its niche, detached and bidden the
telephone and was about to disappear
through the little door behind the
counter when Rachel Gordon hurried
up, rather breathless, from some
where.
“I’m the publicity lady,” Rachel
would introduce herself to the new
artists in the wings and in dressing
rooms when she wanted material for
piquant dress paragraphs. She did
all the day-to-day publicity work for
the Rotunda. A pretty Jewess, with
full lips and eyes, waved hair, strik
ing clothes, carefully tended com
plexion and a general air of knowing
all that was worth knowing; not
quite young, but far ,from old. She
spent every evening in the theater,
and little in it escaped her attention.
“Fco asked me to give you this
note.” said she. “I’m so glad I’ve
caught you before you'd gone.”
She handed the note, with a char
acteristic. sparkling glance that was
full of chicane and the spirit of
Plotting. “Feo!” Thus she famil
iarly referred to the great, the unique
Feodora. But, then, she managed to
be very friendly with all, and she
could he highly useful even to the
greatest. As Elaine read the note
she showed'extreme astonishment. It
ran:
“My dear Miss Edar, I give a party
tomorrow night at the Fantasy Club,
some friends, dancing, fun. Will you
come? I do hope. Your obliged Fco.”
Indeed, the thing was enough to
astonish a box-office girl. "Your
obliged.” Elaine knew what that re
ferred to. A fortnight earlier, when
a not uncommon state of war existed
between Feodora and Mr. Walter
King. Feodora had been unable to get
two free seats for friends. She had
most particularly wanted those seats,
even if it should be necessary to pay
for them. But she was too haughty
to tell Mr. King that she would pay
for them, and so she had herself run
around, furs and pearls and ail—as de
scribed by Rachel for the press—to
implore Elaine to ajlot scats to her,
even though all scats were sold.
And Elaine, by methods known to
box-office keepers only, had bestowed
upon her the two desired seats, and
Mr. Walter King not a penny (he
wiser! Feodora, in the generosity of
her impulsive, poetic heart, had not
forgotten.
"Shall you come?” asked Rachel,
who evidently knew what was in the
scrawled note.
“I—l haven't a rag to wear.” an
swered Elaine, much flustered.
“Oh, stuff!” observed Rachel, sim
ply. “You're always awfully well
turned out. Everybody knows that.”
"But evening wear ” protested
Elaine, despite a secret mistrust of
Rachel.
“Oh, stuff!” Rachel repeated.
Elaine could scarcely sleep that
night. It was an incredible happen
ing. She ’■ose early to look through
her wardrobe.
•4: # * *
rpHE Fantasy Club, scene of Fco
”*■ dora’s party, was in Goodge
street, off Tottenham Court road.
Elainc v had some difficulty in finding
it. since its portal was hidden at the
end of a long covered passage and
showed no signs of festivity, but she
found Rachel Gordon in tho cloak
room.
Rachel gave the names of sundry
high-brow novelists and painters and
musicians who regularly frequented
the club, and she said that in the art
of turning night into day they were
tho greatest experts in London.
Rachel laughed at the nocturnal pre
tentions of the more famous dancing
clubs; she scorned them as bourgeois.
Any one could join them; but, accord
ing to Rachel, not any one could Join
the Fantasy. You had to be some one
or the approved friend of some one
to be admitted to the Fantasy.
Tho dancing room was large, low
nnd very bare compared to the ornate
interiors of the Rotunda. It had no
decorations except electric lights in
Chinese lanterns, and the costumes of
the ladies. These decorations, how*-
ever, were extremely effective. The
room was full. Revelers were eating,
drinking, dancing, chattering, laugh
ing and giggling with much gusto.
"There’s Feo’s table," said Rachel,
pointing to the biggest and busiest
table in the place, and led Elaine to
ward it. Elaine was nervous.
“How sweet of you!” the slim and
gorgeous Feo greeted her. “How
sweet you look! No! It Is more than
sweet. I understand now when Carly
does say how you, are cxotlque. It
is so. Yes. Sit down. Have drink?
Have chicken? Or soup? Yes. Soup
first. Rachel, occupy yourself with
Miss.” Feodora turned to two young
men, who kissed her hand.
Elaine listened eagerly to the con
fused talk at the table, but, though
all laughed or giggled, she heard
nothing that struck her as amusing.
No doubt the humor was being ac
complished In French or Russian, of
which languages Elaine had no
knowledge. However, all the ladies
looked either lovely or strange. She
was still very shy, but she was mys
THE SUNDAY STAR. WASHINGTON, D. C.. MARCH'23, 1924-PART 5.
teriously happy, too, somehow up
lifted.
“Who is Carly?” she murmured to
Rachel, and Rachel by a discreet turn
of tho head indicated a young man
who stood behind Feodora, against
the wall. Elaine started and flushed.
It was tho nightly visitant for whom
she reserved stalls. The word exotic
in the tiny roouui of Feodora had al
ready exercised Elaine, who could
not comprehend how anybody could
regard her as deserving of sucii an
adjective. That the nightly visitant
should deem her exotic, and should
have said so to a high goddess like
Feodora, almost disturbed her while
enchanting her. Rachel beckoned to
the nightly visitant, who approached.
"Mr. Lyeskov,” said Rachel. “Miss
Edar. I think you have met.”
She laughed. Mr. Lyeskov blushed.
The next moment Elaine became
aware that her hand had been kissed.
A unique experience. Hand kissing
was, of course, “foreign" and some
what foolish, but it was surprisingly
delicious, even flattering. So this was
tho young man who, while paying
for stalls from which to worship Feo
dora, had found time to examine her
self and to decide that she was ex
otic. Yes, disturbing! Disturbing!
He now asked hereto dance. Could
she refuse? How ridiculous! Unfor
tunately, in the dance she could not
think of a single thing to say to him.
He was a tine dancer, but scarcely
cleverer as a talker than Elaine. They
just danced, yielded themselves to the.
music and the movement. It was
exquisite.
“You are a natural dancer. You
have the gift,” ho remarked. She
smiled. She knew that she was a
natural dancer. She had no more
learned to dance than she had learned
to breathe; she rarely danced, and
only in suburban resorts with one.or
two dull acquaintances; yet she knetx
all the steps and never erred, never
hesitated. They danced two consecu
tive dances. As he restored her to
the table he asked if he might dance
again with her very soon. Feodora
called to him.
“How did you get on?” Rachel de
manded of Elaine, with a peculiar
glance.
“Oh, splendid! He's asked me for
another dance.”
“And did you refuse?”
“Ought I?”
“Don’t be silly. Can’t you see he’s
mad about you? AVhy do you suppose
he comes to get tickets off you every
night? Why do you suppose he got
Fco to ask you here tonight? And
let me tell you. he may be a French*
Russian. but he’s very serious and
very rich. He didn't lose anything in
the revolution, he didn't: Pity he's so
shy, isn't it?”
** # *
JPLAINE'S face burred again. The
fact is, she was overwhelmed as
she realized bit by bit that “Carly”
came nightly to the Rotunda not to
worship Feodora, but to worship her.
It was staggering. She was glad
when a male performer in Feodora's
troupe invited her on to the floor.
She did not care for his face, nor for
bis manners, nor yet for his danejng—
how different from “Carly's”!—but lie
enabled her to escape from Rachel
Gordon’s enigmatic scrutiny. As she
went round the room with the pro
fessional dancer something happened
to her, and she half stumbled and
turned wholly pale. It was a night
of sensations, blushes and pallors,
such a night as she had never before
known. The dancer looked at his fal
tering partner inquiringly, but said
no word, and Elaine recovered her
self. No one knew, no one could
guess, what had happened to her. And
after all it was naught.
She had only caught sight of Ned
seated at a table with another man.
and he had seemed to be somewhat
unprosperous and defiant in his shab
by evening dress. And he looked
older, thinner, worn. s
Ned was the one man who bad en
tered into the private life of hers,
the existence of which none of the
patrons of the Rotunda could visual
ize. It was six years ago, when she
was twenty-one, and before her con
nection with the life of music halls.
Ned was an advertising agent and
lots of things besides; he had hadr a
hand in promoting one or two of the
earlier damcc clubs. He was up one
month and down the next. He had
gagagagaga
-YOl ARE A NATURAL DANCER,” HE REMARKED. “YOU ILWE THE GIFT.’'
i defects, but lie had made love to her.'
i proposed to her, been accepted. She
Save him all her heart; she learnt
{ rapturously to love love. The world
became n *»gieal. The date of the
! wedding was fixed,
> Then Ned came ore day and said
j that candor was best, and that the
j sole manly course was to confess to
t her. What? What? That he had inis
■ taken his feelings. That he had found
j that ho did not care for her “in that
j way.” Whereas he did care for Alice
' "in that way.” and Alice caret! for
I him "in that way.” That, of course,
i he was hers to command, but would
j it not be better, for her sake and for
| the sake of them all. if she—he was
j extremely sorry. He did not and
| could not defend himself. Alice was a
| friend of hers, had but a few months
■ before been congratulating her on
j ber betrothal to nice Ned. Ned mar
| ried Alice. And so that was that.
Klainc's tragic grief softened grad
ually into vague regret, and vague re
j gret changed into a vague feeling that
j perhaps she had done Well to los.- Ned.
j Such stories lie buried in the memory
j of numberless girls who go through
J life apparently as though butter had
i never melted In their mouths. And
! you dig up the stories with difficulty.
! with amazement. Well, she had
| caught sight of Ned Ilaltright.
• v v * <=
j r T'Htl next minute his tab!* was
i empty. She hoped he had not
j seen her. and could not help thinking
i that he had. fndoubtedly she had
j had a shock. Hut after powdering her
! self anew and drinking some chant
! pagne, she put her hand once again
| in the hand of Carty Hyeskov, and
j felt his right hand lightly on her
i back and resumed the dance with
I him; the effects of the shack soon
■ disappeared.
i She glimpsed herself in a mirror
t and was satisfied with the vision.
’ Idle to deny that she was pretty, had
j a good figure or that her frock was
! not smart! She was as presentable
i as most, and more so than a lot of
j them, though her only trinket was a
i necklace of Chinese-dyed niother-of-
I pearl. Carly's worship of her blos
f somed like a flower. It was heavenly
!to bo worshiped, to be able to confer
a favor by merely consenting to ex-
I ist. She had a sense of dominion
which intoxicated. And then the
hand, the colors, -the movement, the
feeling of being surrounded by illus
trious and witty artists! She won
dered who was who! And Carly was
so distinguished. His very shirt front
was a miracle. And he was so defer
ential.
"May I ask where you live?"
She told him Fulham.
"1 suppose you would not let me
drive you home in my car? ' *•
Yes, she would; he was really too
kind! Itornance! Uontancc! Soon she
was thinking that Carly was unique
in the whole world, so sympathetic
he was! And lie worshiped her. He
had gone off his head about her.
Triumph! Power! Dizziness! It was
silently establish d between them that
they would dance every dance to
gether. And they did. The Fantasy
faded to a dim background for their
emotions. And Klaine looked with
pity at her past life at the horrid
grind and daily work, at her loneli
ness, because behind her counter she
was nearly as lonely as a bus driver,
and iit home in her rooms she was
terribly lonely. How had she sup
ported it? Could she possibly con
tinue to support it?
At 3 o'clock, when the gayety was
at its apogee, she said she thought
she must go home. Not that she
w ant* d to go home or had any reason
for going home. She wanted simply
to command him, and to prove to the
entire Fantasy flub that he was hers
to command.
She took leave _of Feodora, who.
poured over her a delicious cascade
of protests. And Carly did drive her
to Fulham; Parson's Green it was.
No little "liberties” in the large,
smooth-gliding oar, such as are ex
pected and condoned by the primmest
maidens after such ecstasies, in such
circumstances, at such an hour. Noth
ing but ttie deepest. respect. Yes, he
was "serious.” She leaned forward
suddenly and tapped on the window.
The car stopped. Mr. Lyeskov sprang
to the pavement, handed her out, re
moved his hat, kissed her hand and
w-as richly rewarded by her smile
under the lamp post. He waited un
til she had found her latchkey and
opened her door. Os course it was a
poor little suburban house. But she
knew that that didn’t matter. It was
where she lived.
PLAIXE went to bed in a state of
, ecstatic, blissful excitement. No
, sooner had she, laid herself down
! than she heard the prolonged trill of
j the front-door bell in the back room.
; She occupied the two rooms which
i constituted the third or lop floor of
• (he obi house. In earlier days she
had had only one room, but destiny
| had been fairly kind to her. The
front room was a sort of bed-sitting
l i room; the hack was a kitchen-soul
| lery-dining room. The floor was her
; home and held all that she possessed.
■ Compared to many young and aging
women in her situation of life, she
was affluent and of luxurious habit.
'Now, thcro wore four bolls on tlio
front door, each labeled. Sometimes,
; and especially at night, visitors got
confused and rang the wrong hell.
Klaino thought that on this occasion
the wrong hell had been rung.
‘'They'll have to keep on ringing,"
she said. After all, the bell did not
make a great deal of noise. The bell
continued to ring.
“Nobody can possibly be wanting
me at this time of night,” she said.
Nevertheless, she put on her dress
ing gown and opened the window and
looked forth and down. But she could
not see who was ringing because of
the wide, leaded caves of the old
fashioned porch, She shut the window
and shut out the invading chill of
the dark night. At length the per
| sistent bell began to exasperate her
| fatigued nerves, and with an annoyed,
. apprehensive shrug she crept step by
fereaking step all the way downstairs
1 and softly undid the front door.
Ned Haltright was standing in the
! porch. She gave a start, and instinct
i ively drew the thin peignoir more
tightly round her shoulders. As she
| did so she stiffened, looking at him.
j She was affronted, angered, by this
i inexcusable visitation. Nothing but
'sheer good nature prevented her
, from shutting the door in Ned's face.
“I saw you at the club " he com
: menced.
j "Not so loud, please!’ she stopped
; him in a sharp whisper, thinking of
| her immaculate ’reputation in the
i crowded house that so often buzzed
with gossip. To have come home at
j Ood knows what hour in a car was
| bad enough, but to receive male call
‘ ers still later
“I want to see you. I must talk to
you,’’ Ned whispered plaintively. v
"Not now,” she whispered,
j “Yes, now.”
She shook her head firmly.
' coming here now,” she whis
pered, in still colder reproof. “And
how on earth did you get l\cre at
| this time?”
"Walked,” he whispered.
“Walked?” she whispered,
j “Yes.”
I He must certainly, have walked
; over six miles. The whispering
i seemed to render them intimate in
i spite of her aggrieved attitude to
* ward him. It struck her as strange
| and affecting that she had once been
| his affianced sweetheart, that they
f used to kiss each other with long
i kisses and that now they were noth
| ing to each bther. She made a sign
] for him to enter. She very cautiously
; closed the door. ,
“I’m on the top floor now,” she
: murmured, scarcely audible.
He nodded. The fan light over the
i door let through the ray of the street
j lamp, so that the first flight of stairs
i was fairly plain. The higher flights
j were dark. But Ned knew the stair
case. Ned followed her on tiptoe, and
I every now and tl\cn a stair creaked
with a thunderous sound that no pru-
I dence of tread could avoid. Blaine
J had the horrid Illusion that behind
i every door as they passed it women
! with slanderous tongues were greed
j ily listening.
** * *
I AT the summit of the perilous climb
1 she led him into the kitchen -
| scullery-dining room, and found the
! matches, lit the gas, lit the gas stove.
I She put her fingers to her lips. They
| must still exist and communicate
without sound. No sound-proof floors
|ln that house! She motioned him to
i the wicker easy chair. He sank into
! it. She' looked at him and looked
; round the room. Happily, the room
j wa s very tidy and cosy. He was pale,
j p'athetlc, with his pointed, exhausted,
; weak-charactered features. Ke wore
! a blue coat, strapped close at the
waist and bulging out above and be
low over his evening clothes, in his hand
! he held an ordinary bowler hat. No
i style! What a contrast with Mr.
Hyeskovl He had the air of defeat,
even of bein;g a prisoner of war. And
he had walked more than six miles in
his madness.
Without a word she turned away,
Ut the gas ring and began to make
I some tea. She had to do it from sim
, pie humanity. And there she was
j with him. sharing surreptitiously the
room with him. Their tender inti
macy emerged toward them out of
the past, indestructible. Somehow,
what had still was. How could
she # treat him as a stranger? She
could not. Moreover, she felt far
superior to him in moral force; she
felt, despite her resentment, almost
j protective in a casual, condescending
,• way. She had the adoration of Carly
j Lyeskov at her back.
"Well?” she whispered.
Ned gazed at the rug under his
! feet. Silence. Hiss of the gas stove;
hiss of the pas rings; fizzing of the
' blue-yellow gas jet within its mantle.
■'Well, how's Alice?** she whisper
j instly. in a rather indifferent, half -
! quizzing tone, as if saying: "Well,
i you got your Alice. How does it work
; now you’ve had her six years?”
| He whispered solemnly:
"Poor Alice died two years ago. and
i the baby’s two years old. Hadn't jou
:beard?"
i She shook her head. She could not
I speak; her throat was suddenly eon
-1 stricled: tears glittered in her eyes.
At length she said:
‘‘l'm sorry to <heaH it.” How poor
the words! Then, after a. pause, while
Ned stared at the inside of his hat.
"Is it a girl or a boy?”
"A girl."
"What have you called her?”
“Alice.'’
"And how do you manage about the
poor little thing?"
"Ah'. That’s the trouble. How do
I manage?” He looked up suddenly,
j and he was crying,
j "ElHe”—nobody else had ever called
: her •’Ellie"—"Ellie. I made a fright
! ful mistake when I broke it off with
I you, and I’ve known it for years.
; And then when I saw you tonight—it
| was too much for me. Yes. I had to
i talk to you.” His whispered utterance
j was so obscure and feeble that she
j had to guess what he said; but she
! guessed right. The water boiled. She
! turned from him again to fill the
’ teapot.
i How weak he was! So impulsive!
I But so enterprising, too! Full of ini
j tiative, as usual! He had had the
j wild idea of coming to her, and be
! had come. He had arrived. He had
! wanted to talk to her, and he was
i talking to her.
j "And how’s business?” she asked,
• extinguishing the gas ring. She was
: bound to say something—and some
| thing ordinary, banal, off the point,
j "Oh, pretty fair,” he whispered.
! “Not bad. Changeable, of course. Cut
j you rub along, you know."
She was confirmed in her notion
j that he was out of luck. Ho drank
j the hot tea, which seemed to revive
' him; he was a man easy to revive and
j easy to deject. She took some tea
herself. As an afterthought she cut
j some bread and butter. He ate it
savagely. The scene was domestic.
The night, the enforced whispering,
his trouble, the Informality of the
little meal> made it domestic. She
stood near the fire in order to keep
warm in her thin raiment.
"Ellie," he said, rising vivaciously
to put his cup and saucer on the
table, and standing near to her. 'T’ve
always been in love with you. I know
there’s no excuse for me. I didn't
treat you right. But there It Is. And
when I saw you tonight ” He had
raised his voifce.
"Hsh!” she warned him.
* t- * *
| CHE spoke gently, keeping resent
j ment out of her voice, partly be-
I cause she was flattered by the reali
j zation of her power over hfm—and
| she had the same power over Carly
j Eyeskov—and partly because he was
j so wistful and she pftied him in his
' unhappiness. Nevertheless, in her
I heart she was indignant.
She did not see Elaine Edar aban-
Idoning her independent situation for
the status of the wife of a Ned Halt
j asking Ned Haltright for
money when she needed it, consider
j ing his wishes in regard to her own
! conduct, sacrificing herself to the
baby of the girl who had supplanted
, her, sharing the material vicissitudes
which must inevitably result from his
character. He might love her, ad
! mire her, but that could not compcn
i sate. Moreover, the whole idea was
I absurd, monstrous. His suggestion
amounted to effrontery. And Carly
existed and worshiped.
However, she offered no reasoned
reply. Her daily traffic with all sorts
of human beings had taught her when
to argue and when not to argue.
"Please don’t say any more,” she
1 murmured firmly. "You can’t hurst
out like this.”
"But I’ve had it on my mind *'••■
years, I tell you."
"Please don't say any more "
He seemed to wither.
’Til go. Better go. Sorry I spok.
The wicker easy chair, empty, com
plained with crcakings of the burden
i which it had had to bear. The dawn
i began delicately to announce itself
j in silver-gray gleams through the in
\ tersticc between the curtains of th
I window.
"You inusn't po yet,” Elaine win-
I pered.
i "Why not?”
; "Because it’s getting light, and th*
I people on the first floor tviil be about
j and 1 can't have a man, specially ii
evening dn-ss. leaving my rooms at
| this tint*-. Bffidot He re's no buss f
’or trams yet. You must wait tiii
j every one’s up and people have begun
i to go up and down stairs, and you
J must cover up your shirt front prop-
I eriy. Then you eau slip out ” Sh
,’ whispered soberly, with the sagacity
j of a young woman who lias iearnt
I her world. She added: "I shall lie
j down.” I’m frightfully tired, and you
| must he, too. ’ Try to sleep in the
| chair.”
; She left him for the front room,
jand locked the door and dropped on
| her bed. She was indeed exhausted,
j but she could not sleep. Her eyes
1 burned. She reflected that dancers
were still dancing at the Fantasy
Then she slept.
When she woke the alarm clock,
i which never alarmed, showed the
• hour of 3 <t. The memory of the night
j gradually re-established itself in her
i mind. How fortunate that her char
| woman came only at 11:30! She
gladly: "Yesterday it was
J the day after tomorrow that I was
jto see Carly. Now it is tomorrow.
! Tea at the Regent Palace at j.” It
j was she who had chosen the Regent
■ Palace. She arose, washed, dressed
j deliberately, pave particular atten
j tlon to the toilet of her face. Cau-
I tiously she unlocked her door and
J cautiously went into the back room,
i Ned was fast asleep, in a twisted,
I uncomfortable posture in the wicker
j chair. His pallid face had the pathos
lof a corpse. He appeared tragically
so much so that she
i could have cried at the sight of him
and at the thought of bis weaknesses,
j his perils, his incompetency to deal
I with the responsibilities attached to
j little Alice, the baby. Much gas had
| been burned, but she did not care,
i She drew the curtains back, and the
1 entire room became pathetic—the
I teacups, the teapot, crumbs on the
i floor. The image of Carly Eyeskov
' was obscured in her soul. She tnmed
1 off the gas jet. Ned awoke with a
1 jump.
"You’re ail dressed. Shall I go
j now?”
i "Where’s little Alice?”
"She’s with some people in Canon
bury.”
"Who are they? Relations?”
j "No. Not relations. I’m not strong
j in relations. Y'ou know thaE I think
j they’re very decent people. She seems
I to be pretty well looked after.”
j "Oh, Ned! You must give me the
! address. I’ll go and see her tomorrow
' morning. I'll have a look at things a
] bit.”
** * *
j HPHE images of Carly Eycskov. au-
I tomoblles, luxury, distinction.
| worship, adoration, passion, eternal
I romance, begun to slip away from
| her. She clutched at them, drew them
1 back, held them fast, hugged them,
■ but the next moment they were wrig
gling away again like cels.
"Oh, Ellie! There’s nobody like
i you, and there never was. You're an
j angel and nothing else.”
! She wept. She let the tears fall
j drop, drop; they slipped down bet
! cheeks and fell into space. Perhaps
1 she was sorry as much for herself as
j for little Alice and little Alice’s
1 father. She saw vistas of effort,
struggle, reverses, obstinate recom
mencings, narrownesses, dependence.
! despairs, fluttering hopes, quarrels,
reconciliations, disillusions and illu
sions. People would cease to stare
at her in the streets of the West End
because she would never bo In the
I West End. She would be withdrawn
I from the vast world of pleasure and
excitement and electricity, where tlnt
ied statues of nymphs supported
j heavily carved ceilings on their frail
j shoulders. Yet an immense peace
’ took possession of her disturbed soul
and stilled it.
"This is my fate,” she thought. "I
was born for it. I wasn’t really born
for the other thing.”
The immense jieace in her was
(.Continued ou Seventh ’

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